Film Review – THE ALAMO (1960)

Image result for THE ALAMO 1960Alamo, The (1960; USA; Technicolor; 193m) ****  d. John Wayne; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O’Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Cliff Lyons. In 1836, as General Santa Anna and the Mexican army sweep across Texas, Colonel William Travis is tasked with defending a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Grand spectacle, notably the closing final battle scenes, are the main draw for this exercise in logistics. Wayne handles the whole thing with considerable aplomb. Whilst the inevitability of the story’s conclusion has been laid down by history, there is a sense of admiration for the spirit of the volunteers that only occasionally veers into the overly-patriotic and preachy. Wayne, Widmark and Harvey all bring star quality to the proceedings. Great score by Tiomkin. Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get film finished after United Artists refused funding once budget was exceeded. Oscar winner for Best Sound. Original video release cut to 161m. Remade in 2004. [PG]

Film Review – NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950)

Night and the City (1950; USA/UK; B&W; 96m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Jules Dassin; w. Jo Eisinger; ph. Max Greene; m. Benjamin Frankel (British version), Franz Waxman (American version).  Cast: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Mike Mazurki, Charles Farrell, Ada Reeve, Ken Richmond. A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter. Moody and effective noir, if occasionally over-wrought, in which Widmark scores in the lead role and is backed by strong performances from an interesting cast. Great Score by Waxman and atmospheric photography on the streets of London by Greene add to the flavour. Thrilling chase finale through the docks. Based on the novel by Gerald Kersh. Alternative British version runs to 101m with a different score by Frankel. Remade in 1992 with Robert De Niro. [PG]

Film Review – MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

Murder on the Orient Express (1974; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗∗  d. Sidney Lumet; w. Paul Dehn; ph. Geoffrey Unsworth; m. Richard Rodney Bennett.  Cast: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, Colin Blakely, George Coulouris, Denis Quilley, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jeremy Lloyd, John Moffat. In 1935, when his train is stopped by deep snow, detective Hercule Poirot (Finney) is called on to solve a murder that occurred in his car the night before. Strong cast is the main interest in this otherwise standard Agatha Christie mystery, to which the solution becomes very clear too soon. Finney is excellent as Poirot and the script has some lovely humorous touches. Bergman won her third Oscar as a Swedish missionary. Finney, the elegant cinematography and costume design were also nominated for Academy Awards. Twice remade for TV – in 2001 with Alfred Molina as Poirot and again in 2010 as part of ITVs Poirot series with David Suchet. Followed by DEATH ON THE NILE (1978). [PG]

TV Review – MADIGAN: THE MANHATTAN BEAT (1972)

Madigan: The Manhattan Beat (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 73m) ∗∗∗  d. Alex March; w. Roland Wolpert; ph. Jack Priestley; m. Quincy Jones.  Cast: Richard Widmark, Murray Hamilton, Ronnie Cox, Tony Lo Bianco, James J. Sloyan, Jennifer Harmon. A police detective is asked to break in a new colleague, a recent college graduate and finds his life in danger in the course of tracking down assault suspects and a possible murderer. Standard TV adaptation of 1968 movie benefits from NYC locations and a strong performance from Widmark. Premiere episode of a short-lived addition to the NBC Mystery Movie series. [PG]

Film Review – MADIGAN (1968)

Madigan (1968; USA; Technicolor; 101m) ∗∗∗½  d. Don Siegel; w. Howard Rodman (as Henri Simoun), Abraham Polonsky; ph. Russell Metty; m. Don Costa.  Cast: Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens, Harry Guardino, James Whitmore, Michael Dunn, Susan Clark, Steve Ihnat, Don Stroud, Sheree North. Two NYC detectives are given a weekend to bring a fugitive to justice. Gritty police thriller is largely a character study of two flawed but driven men – Widmark’s streetwise detective and Fonda’s by-the-book commissioner. Whilst the juggling of perspective reduces the narrative fluidity Widmark is excellent and Siegel directs with a sure hand. Based on the novel “The Commissioner” by Richard Dougherty. Followed by a 1972-3 series of six TV movies. [12]